O Igneous Rose - Poem by Patrick White
O igneous rose, are you the furnace or the urn of the butterfly?
Or should I ask the vatic wind which pyre is mine?
Will I be be food for the stars again, will I mulch
the dark matter of the roots with my remains
or will my ashes retain some semblance of the light
like the ghost feeling in the heart of a spiritual amputee
or linger among archetypes like fossils in the Burgess Shale
that haven't reached their full potential yet?
Not Hell, not Heaven, not Hades, Sheol, Tartarus
Dis, Avernus, Jana, Jahannum, Nirvana, Samsara,
or the great abyss where nothing is even in the slightest,
and presence, and absence, and time aren't even
anachronisms of their past lives. I'm not going
anywhere when I die, because death is not discontinuous
from life in the known universe, though one's a lifeboat
and the other's what you need it for to stay afloat.
Wherever your mind walks in unison with your heart
deep in emotional thought without too much attention
to where you're going, you break trail like a river
and the stars start flowing into your alluvial fields
and the green mountains you left walk with you
all the way into the pyramids like the source of the Nile,
not tombs of death, but tombs of life pointing like starmaps
to the indelibility of your afterlife in Orion
as the scion of a great house of mystic hunters.
I'll be here. Just behind your eyelids. Like a dream
I'm having until things come true again for the sake
of distinguishing my extinction from one bone to the next
like yarrow sticks throwing away their crutches
like the hands of a clock to read the Book of Changes
to see what's bubbling up like the multiverse from the bottom
and every eye of air, each a complete science unto itself
or an occult art, where it's been fully realized
chaos is the root of all imagination
even when it's writing Horatian odes and haikus.
Chaos is as smooth as Hermes writing his own flightplan
with his heels, and where he arrives, is as much of a message
as the word he holds in his mouth
like coin for the ferryman in his moonboat
at the end of the long wharves that are the last to see us off
to the other side of everywhere. O come now
surely you didn't think life was going to let you off
its prophetic hook that easily before it got
its last crescent snagged like a koan in the mouth
of the golden fish that thrives in the dead seas of the moon
that reels it in for questioning, only to throw it back?
Everybody satisfied with the answers for awhile
until the questions get bored with hanging around
like mere coathangers, and bite off more of you
than they can chew again. No more than a windowpane
can hold the whole of the sky the way any dropp of rain can,
can you without washing the dye out of your tears like an iris
that encircles the blackholes like rainbows around a wishing well
where what you see is what you wished for from the beginning
because chaos conforms to any vision of reality and delusion
that conceives of it as a feature of the conditioning mind
that shapes it like a simulacrum of the inconceivable.
So the same well that the stars and fireflies look into
holds a mirror up to them like a reflecting telescope.
And all it takes is a quarter gram of vaporized aluminum
to silver the whole universe with a prism and a dropp of dew
trembling in the web of a spider mount like a psychic butterfly.
Chaos and cosmos. Igorance and enlightenment. Reality
in contradistinction to delusion. Life and death yoked
like two oxen to the oxymorons of the helical star wheels
that dance like Sufis at the naves of their retrograde crossroads
to weird what direction to go in like witching sticks
in the mouths of the dragons that undo the locks
on the gates of the rain with skeletal keys of lightning.
I shall be here. Where the light and the water
illuminate the blossoms and quench the roots of things
at the intersection of time and the timeless where
there's no more need of religion than there is crosswalks
or moonboats and ferrymen to the other side of the river
that know what season it is by the colour of your sails.
I've always flown under the skull and crossbones
like a sea wolf that didn't evolve back into a whale
howling in the mountains on the moon in a savage agony
of the longing to live yourself to death as intensely as you can.
The sublimity of laughter that makes the clown profoundly sacred.
That beatifies the candles like eyes in the unapproachable darkness.
That takes one world after another in hand
like a party balloon and lets the clowns and magicians
twist it into the shapes of worlds within worlds
where the ground of being is always and only
the liberated exercise of their creative imaginations.
And every world we pass through the sum of all
we've imagined it to be, and a little bit more
just to keep the mystery from being perfectly contained
in the three and a half pounds of starmud we call a brain
and root our shining in it like flowers gone to seed.
Make a muse of the wind, or a church out of a rock, the same,
or pitch a tent or a pyramid on the dunes of the shifting stars,
or in a nunnery of desert mermaids who gave up singing to take vows
make your obeisance to the unknown with laughter, grace, and style.
Best show in town, and the ticket was free, and who
so ungrateful they could leave the table that fed them, fouled?
Holiness isn't a threshold where you take your body off
at the door and separate your mind from the Braille of the flesh
you need fingertips to read just as you need eyes in your blood
to see a lover's heart from the inside out. True holiness
is not holy. It's not fool proof. It's not stake-prone.
It doesn't pour honey all over your head in the morning
just to feather you with doves and expect you to glow
like secret diamonds in the dross of the ore. Listen.
You can hear the light walking across the grass.
The snakes are teaching their occult wavelengths
to the shadows of the trees leafing in the moonrise like veils.
There are mad poets all through these pathless hills
waiting for inspiration like a singing coach
to raise havoc among the high notes of the bush wolves
that leave you guessing what they're really mourning for
that's actually missing. Grains of sand,
we grow like pearls and stars and expanding universes
beyond the limits of what constrained us yesterday.
The seed splits its cotyledons like Solomon's baby
and scarlet runners burn like heretics at the stake
in an auto de fe of enlightened immolation
of serpent fire running up the spine to get to the stars
as a circumpolar constellation with small flammable flowers
before the last watch of the night blows them out at dawn.
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